Joe Kamau and Fred Mwangi constantly found ways of improving their bland meals with different ingredients while still in high school. This, Joe says is how Mwachaka, a condiments and sauces company started. Post high school, while Fred was living in the Kenyan coastal town of Mombasa, he was exposed to the beautiful spices common to the area and the innovative ways they made condiments for their meals.
He returned to Nairobi and partnered with his old school friend Joe in reinventing an old coastal ingredient and packaging the product. In 2015, Mwachaka came to life and they began selling their own condiments made from a mixture of garlic, ginger and hot pepper as the primary ingredients.
The business venture quickly took a quick dive when their products began exploding in customers’ faces once opened. There were also cases of them exploding while on supermarket shelves. They soon discovered that the chemical reaction of the spice combination continued long after the product was packaged.
This informed their decision to take a year off for product refinement. They were able to successfully test the end product and got certification from the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). After getting full certification they hit the ground running. They put more effort into increasing their market share.
They easily make sales between 200-300 jars per month and have made roughly 6000 unit sales from 2017 to now. Joe says, “We have a high demand for our product with orders of more than 1000 units per order coming in. Unfortunately, we are unable to meet the demand due to lack of capital to buy machinery that would dwarf our current output. We would easily produce the 1000 units in a week with the machinery, but we are currently supplying such big orders in batches because we cannot produce that many units in a short period of time.”
Through Mwachaka, they are able to address post-harvest losses by purchasing their farm products directly from the farmers. Farmers in Kenya avoid growing crops like garlic, ginger or peppers because of the post-harvest loss that they experience due to the market infiltration by exported crops.
The Mwachaka team say that having urban farmers grow these crops locally, they increase the botanical footprint in urban spaces. One of their biggest suppliers is a farmer in the Nairobi informal settlement, Mathare. They have started a program that enables impoverished families grow financially and improve their local community by growing and selling the exotic crops which are in high demand in the country.
Mwachaka joined the Kenya Climate Innovation Centre (KCIC) in 2018 and are receiving mentorship and business development services. KCIC also offers access to networks, which they are looking forward to exploit as they are in need of investment for their business to increase their supply and market share.